Lutein speeds the brain's nerve-cell response time

Recent studies reveal a role in healthy brain function for the colorful carotenoids normally found in the eye.

Lutein, one of the yellow-orange-red pigments in the retina, also accumulates in the brain. Doctors can estimate brain levels of lutein without invasive procedures by measuring amounts of lutein in the retina.

In this study, doctors gauged lutein levels in the eye, and then measured nerve-cell activity in the brain while participants performed an attention test. The study tracked cognitive performance in 60 adults, aged 25 to 45.

Because the study included both younger and older adults, doctors could compare nerve-cell activity—which slows with age—between the two groups. Nerve-cells in the older adults with higher levels of lutein performed at a faster rate normally found in younger people, and better than their peers with lower levels of lutein. And those with more lutein were able to use more cognitive resources to complete the task.

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